If you have children, or nieces, nephews etc, you’ll have seen their capacity and inclination for imitation. They don’t just copy the gestures and words others use, but the way we behave with other people, the activities we engage in and the tools we use. It’s one of the things that makes us human.
Since they were very young, my daughters have been used to me going away regularly for work. I was writing, but it happened on trains, or at night when they were asleep. But the Christmas when they were 5 and 3 I got a book deal. “Why are you so happy?” they asked. “Mummy is a writer,” I told them.
Within weeks, their games had changed. Previously, playing at being Mummy involved putting on shoes with heels, packing a case and sweeping out of the house, calling back, “I’m off to work. I’ll be back on Friday, try and be good for Daddy.”
Now, aged 7 and 5, they get out pens and paper and they write stories, poems, anything and bring them to me like offerings. “I am a writer,” they say.
They way they engage with books is different too. They notice when a book is published by Bloomsbury. They are interested in the authors and illustrators of books, make connections, write fan letters even.
And recently, I’ve noticed something else. If I read on my Kindle, computer or phone, they go for computer games (or else choose a different activity altogether). But if I sit and read a paper book, within minutes they are rifling through their books for something to read themselves. In the parenting game of teaching by example we have hit a stumbling block:
My children don’t think reading on an electronic device is the same as reading a book.
Photo (c) Jer Kunz via Flickr Creative Commons